Fans of Coastal San Diego

This site is for the many fans of coastal San Diego, those who have lived here for years, as well as those new to the area. Here you can learn more about the different communities, the many things to do and places to visit in and around San Diego, share your experiences, and ask for advice and recommendations for restaurants, shopping, visitor activities, places to live, and more! Buyers thinking about moving here will find lots of information to help, too!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Evil lurking in the garden

There is an evil lurking in some gardens along the coast here in San Diego. For those of you who enjoy the pastime of gardening and appreciate the wonderful variety of plants we have here, and who are finding some disturbing things happening to your citrus and bougainvilla, and perhaps other plants, you might want to read this article on root weevils that appeared in the North County Times recently, if you didn't see it (see photo at left, taken from their article).

Our neighbors called the other day to tell us, and let us know they were going to be spraying with Liquid Sevin which is designed to get rid of these buggers, among other critters. While we haven't actually seen the weevils themselves, based on the description and pic in the article, the damage we are seeing is indicative of their presence. Anyone else having problems? They are supposedly quite prevalent in Encinitas (some areas have been quarantined) and parts of Carlsbad (La Costa for example), as well as other areas.

Gardening here is challenging enough, despite the temperatures and sunshine, with the crummy clay soil, lack of rain, rabbits, and year-round pests. Now there's one more thing to be concerned about! :(

Guide to Things to do in San Diego

Went to see "Ella" last night at the San Diego Rep - if you are an Ella Fitzgerald fan, don't miss this one woman show - I picked up a magazine called "San Diego City Beat" which is published FREE every Wednesday. Anyhow, there is lots of information about things to do all around our city- theatre/stage, art, restaurants, nightclubs, and more. They also have an online version which features editorials, reviews, currents/happenings, plus a comprehensive list of stuff you can enjoy all around town - food, stage, art, etc. Check out!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Things to do in San Diego - Part 3

Thought I'd mention a few other artistic sorts of things to do in SD. We have season tickets to the San Diego Repertory Theatre (going to see "Ella" tonight). This is a great small theatre at the Lyceum at Horton Plaza, with some terrific productions and very reasonable rates for individual as well as season tickets.

We have gone to productions at the La Jolla Playhouse as well but have not yet purchased season tickets. Haven't seen enough there yet to know how good it is but they have an excellent reputation (located off Torrey Pines Road at UCSD).

We haven't been to the San Diego opera yet so can't comment.

We went to see Thievery Corporation at the 4th and B in the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego. I thought it was a terrible venue (but then I am not 25), it was incredibly hot (we were there during the heatwave, it had to be over 90 in the room), and the group started 90 minutes late (and standing around for 2 hours even before the music started was a pain), but the music was terrific. We understand the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach is good also for some off-beat kinds of music/groups but have yet to try it out (Pink Martini was there but we had already seen them at the Hollywood Bowl in LA - BTW this is terrific for a weekend get-away and it's only a 2 hour drive. A really outstanding outdoor venue in the summer; the 2-day Playboy Jazz Festival in June is great fun ). Any one been to any of these places??

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Water, Water, Everywhere!

There is a fascination with water here in Southern California. For many, it's because they live near it, can see it, or live on it (yep, we know some people living on their sailboat on the bay downtown). For others, water is more aloof - in the desert, for example.

It seems that most people want to be near the beach and the Pacific Ocean, or to be able to see it, or for the more fortunate, to live right next to it. Hence the overcrowding we all deal with and the resultant traffic. But we're here 'coz we want to be near the water. And thousands flock to the beaches to enjoy the water - surfing, swimming, fishing, sailing, snorkeling - or at least look at it while they enjoy dining on the sand. Views of the water are a premium (I discussed this in an earlier post), and so if you can't afford to live right next to the beach, at least being able to see it (and enjoy the ocean breezes) is the next best thing. It seems that most Californians are obsessed with their beaches and enjoying them whenever they can...and rightfully so, as most are beautiful, and parking is, for the most part, relatively easy and cheap or free. They are there for all to enjoy (not so easy in other parts of the country). I have finally gotten used to seeing the surfer crossing signs you see along the roadways (I didn't take the one at the top of this page but found it on the Internet).

There are the lagoons, too, scattered up and down the coast. They are there to enjoy visually and are protected environmentally, but only one I am aware of allows swimming and boating. There are a number of lakes and reservoirs, too (Lake Hodges for example) although many are primarily for enjoyment at a distance. And everyone seems to know about Mission Bay along the freeway just north of downtown - a good place to avoid at major summer holidays, but some great tourist attractions (e.g., Sea World).

Irrigation is everywhere here, out of necessity due to the desert-like climate and limited rainfall (more on that later). For someone coming from the East Coast (yes, we have beaches and an ocean there too), having an irrigation system was a new experience. It's great that it does what it is supposed to do automatically and while I sleep (unless I change the timer), and I no longer pay attention to the sounds of the sprinklers when they come on. I have also learned how to change or repair the sprinklers, fix breaks in the irrigation pipes, and more...but then the gardener can do that too (yep, a majority of people here, it seems, have someone to care for their lush yards).

Spas, pools, hot tubs, water features, fountains and spools (that's spa/pool - we now have a custom-built one in OUR yard SEE PIC AT LEFT) are everywhere too. Of course you can enjoy outdoor swimming and relaxing in your spa year-round here due to the weather. Fountains are more common than I have seen anywhere else, except perhaps in Italy - at the front door, in the courtyard, in the foyer, on the back patio, in the middle of the pool, on the dining room table, in the bath room, etc. But there is something very relaxing about the sounds of trickling water...and this has noise-muffling qualities too. Plus, water is an important part of Feng Shui (nope, can't tell you why or how until I read some more). I guess it is probably NOT a good idea to buy a house without some sort of water feature, and if you do you are obligated to put one in!!

And, finally, rain. We don't get a lot of it, typically, but witness the huge rainfalls in 2005 resulting in many landslides and flooding. We can go for many months without rain (not so in Boston and the Northeast in general), and the rainy season seems to start in November or around then. Californians don't know what to do when it rains - freeways become the worst place to be, as people practically come to a stop, or slide all over due to the newly-slick roadways. I guess it's because we just don't get that much of it and it is a novelty when it does occur. Sort of like Bostonians with the first snow. But having as much sunny weather as we do, experiencing rain here is rather just have to wait a long time for it.

Moving to the San Diego area?

If you are moving to the San Diego area, OR if you have made the "unfortunate" decision to leave us, I have added some helpful tips to my Relocation A to Z website about making the move - packing yourself, working with a relocation package, moving with pets, among others.

If I can be of assistance in your relocation, either here to San Diego, or in helping you sell your house in San Diego and move elsewhere (I can help you find the right Realtor in any other city in the country), please feel free to contact me at (760) 840-1360 or via email. And check out the many helpful buyer and seller reports and other real estate information on my main website.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Shopping in the San Diego area

I am not a big shopper, at least not at retail stores. Most of my purchases are through the Internet, with the exception of art, antiques, and similar items where I feel compelled to touch before I buy. That notwithstanding, there are some pretty good places to shop in the area, based on places I have visited - here are just a few. There is lots more than this, however.

Given the weather here, most of the malls are open air, as opposed to those back East where everything is indoors! What a great way to further enjoy the terrific weather here!

If you like malls, Fashion Valley Center, outside San Diego proper on Friars Road, has quite the selection of high-end shops all in one location (the link provides a list of other well-known and popular shopping malls). In San Diego mall shoppers will likely enjoy the eclectic, multi-story Horton Plaza, anchored by Nordstroms. It looks a bit dated, and is fairly predictable in terms of its offerings. There are lots of other smaller stores and interesting shopping in the nearby Gaslamp Quarter. If you like outlets, the Carlsbad Premium Outlets will probably offer you everything you need, just of the 5 and south of Carlsbad Village.

More sophisticated shopping in a mall-like environment is The Forum (at left) on El Camino Real in Carlsbad. And El Camino Real itself, especially in South Carlsbad and through Encinitas, is a treasure trove of strip malls - if you can't find it here, perhaps you don't need it. It's impossible to see what all is available on a drive down the road; you will need many trips to get a good feel for all that is there. Signage is decent but does not give you the whole picture from the road.

There are lots of small shops, some high end, others touristy and predictable, in the downtown areas of Solana Beach (probably the best known area is the Cedros Design District, which has lots of galleries, boutiques, designers, restaurants, furniture stores, etc.), Del Mar, and La Jolla. Prices can be very high in the pricey coastal towns.

You will also find, sprinkled about, the mega stores - Best Buy, Costco, Evergreen (nursery), Fry's (applicances and especially electonics), Lowes, Walmart, among others.

For furniture, there is a good selection on one strip called Furniture Row in San Marcos (not really high-end stuff but a broad range of offerings) just off Route 78. There are lots of other furniture stores in other areas, too.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Things to do in San Diego - Part 2

Here are a few other things to enjoy about living in the San Diego area. I have ventured outside the immediate area to explore what other offerings there are. Here's a short list:

1. Mt. Palomar - about 50 miles inland. Fabulous views, as you can see from the photo which I took on a cloudy, foggy, rainy day, but near the summit (over 5000 feet above sea level) it was clear and you could see for miles out over the clouds. The temperature dropped about 15 degrees on the way back down. Want a challenge - ride your road or mountain bike up!!You can visit the famous Palomar Observatory too but call for hours. There is camping and a few other amenities, including a post office.

2. Wine Country in Temecula - it's not Napa, or Sonoma, or Paso Robles, but there are some nice wineries, great tastings and winery tours. A number of the wineries have terrific spots for lunch and/or dinner with pleasant vistas (my favorite is The Smokehouse Restaurant at Ponte Winery). A number of the wineries offer concerts and other events, especially during the summer. Check out Wine Country , Temecula Wines and Temecula 411 for more information.

3. Julian - small ('bout 500 people) historic gold rush town located in the mountains about 50 miles inland and at 4300 feet above sea level. Known best, perhaps, for Julian Pies (The Julian Pie Company) and its fall apple harvest. Because of the location they also get some snow in the winter (but remember, I left Boston to get away from the snow and cold). The Chamber of Commerce has an informative site; click here for another site with some nice photos to get an idea of the town. There are some touristy shops, a few nice restaurants, and several very respectable inns and B and Bs. I understand weekends in the fall is very crowded.

4. Anza Borrega Desert State Park - I haven't been there yet but plan to go. Supposedly a beautiful desert to visit with some great restaurants, inns and lots to do in Borrego Springs. Probably best to stay away in the summer where it generally is 100 - 115 degrees daily unless you REALLY like hot weather. The California State Park site also offers good information.

Stay tuned for more activities in San Diego and surrounding areas.

A Few Notes on Housing Prices in San Diego

Well, pretty much everyone in the area, and elsewhere, is aware of the prices here and what has happened in the last several years with real estate. San Diego was one of the hottest real estate markets for some time and made lots of headlines as a result. And now we continue to make headlines about how things have changed - the drop off in sales, the potential housing bubble, the shift from seller's to buyer's market, and more. It seems the media relishes the idea that San Diego, after having such a hot real estate market, is now experiencing such a dramatic dropoff, and is leading major California cities in this trend. While there is lots of doom and gloom floating around, one has to it really that bad? After all, when you examine the rates, time on market, inventory and other factors, it really seems to match what has generally been considered a normal market.

Sure, the days of monthly appreciation, multiple offers, and homes sold in days and at or above full price are gone. But prices just can't continue to rise without some impact on the populace here. After all, salaries are not keeping pace and interest rates have risen. What seems to be most troubling is that the shift has been so dramatic (I went through this while living in Boston a few years ago), but perhaps the fact that we don't know for sure what the future holds is also scary. And the media headlines don't help.

We are not seeing the dramatic price changes that have been predicted for a couple of years. Yes, the most recent report indicated that the August 2006 median existing home price for San Diego County was down 1.4% compared to a year ago (the peak median price), but it matches the median price in January of 2006 (that shift represents about $9,000 on a $637,000 property). And yes, the inventory is way up, although it dropped a bit last month. The number of sales has dropped off significantly, but we are still having what appears to be the 3rd busiest year, and while some towns have seen some minor price drops (isn't that a good thing for buyers wanting to get into the market??), in general the prices move around each month as the inventory shifts, which is typical. The monthly statistics I compile from the MLS for the coastal communities indicates the median price in each town, for attached and detached homes, shifts pretty much on a monthly basis as compared to a year ago. Take a look at this recent article in the North County Times to get a good perspective on why there is no need for panic.

Many buyers are sitting on the fence and waiting to see what happens. That may or may not be the best financial strategy for you depending on your circumstances. A recent article on Bubble Sitting is worth a look. Some good things to think about if you are a fence sitter.

Admittedly, this is a frustrating market for many, particularly sellers. Here are just a few things that we are seeing: (1) there is lots of competition; (2) homes are taking an average of about 90 days to sell (and more time in many areas) with some contracts expiring and homes being relisted, or listed with a new agent; (3) buyers are looking but not buying; (4) the inventory is enough to last 6 months (and more in many areas), which means it is a buyer's market by NAR definition; (5) we are seeing lots of low-ball offers and buyers backing out of deals; (6) escrows are longer; (7) some banks are requiring secondary reviews on appraisals when downpayments are less than 20%; and (8) there is lots of speculation about interest rates, what the feds will do, and how this may impact the market. So there are many issues to think about.

The best advice is to find a Realtor that you feel you can trust, and who will give you a honest overview of the current market so you can make the choice that is right for you and your personal real estate situation. If I can be of assistance, give me a call (760-840-1360) or shoot me an email.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

For Relocating Buyers - Helping your Realtor Help YOU

If you are going to be relocating, you may want to check out a new post on my other blog about relocation. Here I write about suggestions, based on personal and professional experiences, for relocating buyers on how they can help their Realtor in their new city work more effectively with them during the house hunting process ("Relocation: Help Your Realtor Help You"). There are a number of things you should do in order to get the most out of your Realtor's assistance, and ensure as smooth a transition as possible. Keep in mind that you are working with a number of other people as well (e.g., mortgage lender, your company representatives, possibly a relocation company, the Realtor helping you sell your current home, the moving company) and it is a team effort, with YOU as the LEADER. And since you have the most vested interest in making the relocation happen successfully, you have the most responsibility. Good luck and let me know if and how I can help you!

PS: Did you know that RE/MAX has a terrific service called The Moving Coach that can assist you in your move (if you are not working with a relocation company) if you work with a RE/MAX agent (like myself, if you are coming here to sunny Southern California).

Friday, September 15, 2006

Things to do in San Diego - Part 1

I thought I'd share just a few ideas of things to do in San Diego. The list is truly amazing, so this is just a first installment, and with weather that encourages you to be outside year-round, there is something for everyone. For more ideas and some resources, visit my website! And there are some area photos there as well.

Beaches - lots of terrific ones for taking walks, admiring sunsets (with a picnic and wine), surfing and surfing lessons (for you OR the kids), fishing, family time. Even in the chillier winters, time at the beach can be special - fewer people. There are places to have fires, you can take your own grill, etc. Beaches, like most of California, tend to get very crowded in the summer, especially at holiday time (e.g., Mission Beach and the whole Mission Bay area; Ocean Beach). Be aware that a number of communities now prohibit smoking on the beaches. Just a few well-known beaches include Swami's (surfing) and Moonlight Beach (SEE PHOTO, located in South Encinitas - they have a drum circle under the palm tree every week, or most), the South Carlsbad State Beach, and Black's Beach in La Jolla (famous for a clothing optional area and dramatic cliffs).

Restaurants - While San Diego is not known as a foodie capitol, that reputation is gradually changing. Lots of new creative chefs in the area, and new restaurants springing up all the time. We still have a ways to go to compete with Los Angeles and San Francisco as great food cities here in California, and perhaps we will never have that dynamic a food atmosphere. Zagat and SignOnSanDiego both are good resources for recommendations on restaurants. I have found it safest to get recommendations from people I know (not a guarantee but better than going cold), especially in North County. Many restaurants here are in strip malls, at least in North County. Some higher-end restaurants in the area I have tried include Vivace (at the Four Seasons Aviara in Carlsbad), and Blue Fire Grill (La Costa Spa and Resort in Carlsbad - pricey given what you get, atmosphere is OK). Some other more casual and decent choices I have tried include Savory, Meritage, FireFly Grill and Wine Bar, Sage Grill in Encinitas; Yellow Coyote at the Forum in Carlsbad and Le Passage in Carlsbad Village (charming French-style with a great outdoor patio under the trees); Cuvee in Del Mar (views along the lagoon but on a busy street, but worth the visit); My Place (French bistro on Girard in La Jolla); Indigo Grill in Little Italy with indoor and outdoor dining. I could go on and on. What is particularly nice much of the year is being able to dine outside if you so choose.

Quail Botanical Gardens in Encinitas is a great place to enjoy tropical vegetation and learn a bit as well. Lots of variety, rainforest-like atmosphere, and handicapped-accessible. They have a great Holiday display of lights where you can wander after dark, and there are activities for young and old.

That's it for now. Check back often or bookmark this page to learn more!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Carlsbad Home Business Expo - Nov. 12 from 1-5

If you interested in starting your own home-based business and earning extra income, or developing a source of residual income to supplement your fulltime job, there will be a home-based business expo held in Carlsbad on November 12 from 1 - 5 PM. Admission is FREE and there is plenty of parking. The event is being held at K1 Speed Indoor Go-Kart Raceway at 6212 Corte del Abeto (between Palomar Airport Road and El Camino Real, off Camino Vida Roble).

If you are currently involved in a network or multilevel marketing business and would like the opportunity to recruit for your downline, market to the public, and sell products and services (only $25, 1 vendor per company to avoid conflict), this FIRST-TIME event may be just what you need.

For more information on this upcoming event, visit Home Business Expo.

More Thoughts on Housing in San Diego - Part 2

Well, here are more of my observations on the housing in the San Diego area. Would be interested in hearing what others think.

1. Closets - People here in California don't have a clue about the luxury they have (well, most do) in their closets. I've seen bigger walk-in closets here than entire $400K condos in Boston. Yep, some "bedrooms" don't have them (so it's a den or office) but most are pretty reasonable in size, if not spacious, and in the newer homes they are downright huge. Now, every New Englander knows that the Victorians, who built a large number of the homes before and after the turn of the century, didn't like closets, or didn't have clothes to put in them, which is why you are hard pressed to find any closet in the older homes where you can hang enough clothing on hangers to last you a week, and THAT'S in the master bedroom. A closet that is 30" wide and 12" deep is a pleasure in Boston. Guess that's why there were so many armoires made back then, or maybe everyone just threw their clothes on the floor. And these mirrored doors on every closet, in every room (I'm exaggerating, just a bit) here in Souther California. Yep, it gives you more light, a feeling of more space, yada yada, but back in New England it's a dead giveaway that the resident is still living in the 60s and 70s and loving it, and a definite negative for buyers.

2. Furnaces and heat - what I love about the weather here is that I only HAVE to turn on my heat a few times a year, and then only to take the chill off the air, and most people have forced hot air. No matter that the furnace is in the ceiling somewhere (I know because the HVAC guy who came to repair it said so). And gas is the typical source of fuel, although there are some unusual electric devices on walls or baseboards occasionally. And furnaces are pretty new here. In Boston, we have something called a "snowman" in many old homes and buildings. Yes, it is kinda rounded and bulgy like a snowman and rather an ugly dirty dusty gray...and it is COVERED with asbestos. Plus it is almost as old as the house. They are gradually disappearing, fortunately, due to the health hazards associated with asbestos, and it costs a boodle to have them removed, and you have to have a certified professional do it. Not everyone has a snowman, but lots of furnaces are 30 - 50 years old, or more. Some are great because, due to how they were made, they will probably never fall apart. But at least you have a furnace...and with the cold Boston winters that last for 6 months this is a priority for any condo or homeowner. And you pay dearly for the fuel (often oil, but more and more so gas). And the steam and hotwater radiators in many old homes are a sight to see - they work great, by the way, and stay warm forever once heated up, and can get hot enough to fry an egg and dry your clothes (instead of going to the basement for the dryer). And in some fun old homes people do not have a source of heat in some rooms, like the kitchen, and you have an ancient stove that also provides the heat. Haven't run across that here in San Diego yet.

3. Parking - I have to say that, despite the number of cars (rumor has it there are more cars than people in LA, for example) in Southern California, we are pretty car friendly overall. You can park at the beach, often for free. There is free parking everywhere (and parking meters, too). And these interesting Self-Pay parking lots - these would never survive in Boston because Bostonians would simply refuse to pay the machine. They ignore pedestrians, red lights and stop signs, don't they?! I didn't have a clue about what to do the first time I encountered a self-pay lot (what do you mean there is no nasty attendant waiting to take your car and squeeze it into a space only 1 mm larger than your car, and have the nerve to charge you $10 for the first 15 minutes for the pleasure - or worse, expect YOU to park your own car). Parking is cheap here, overall. There are some more expensive places, true, but it is typical in Boston to pay $10-$15 per hour to park, and more. But the worse thing is even finding a place to park in Boston, on the street OR in a lot. One commonality - the people who staff the meter-ticket dispensing workforce here (at least downtown) and in Boston are equally rude, abusive and have the ticket on your window only a nanosecond after the time expires. It's like a cult. The other nice thing about parking here is that resident parking is rather unusual. You can park in a neighborhood (well, not the gated ones) and walk to the beach, go shopping, enjoy a restaurant, or go to school, and no one knows who don't live there, and IT'S FREE...and you won't get towed. Most areas, at least in Boston proper and nearby communities, have parking by resident permit ONLY on the streets - no sticker, no parking. The other hassle is the monthly street cleaning, when you can't park in the area where you live at all, or you WILL get fined and you WILL get towed, as it makes money for the city.

Another difference - lots more valet parking here, and it's either free (except for the tip, perhaps) or inexpensive. Boston has caught on to this finally, and some places offer valet parking (otherwise NO ONE would ever come to the restaurant because there is NO PARKING anywhere), the difference being that valet usually costs $10 - $15. Where the valets find room to park the cars, no one knows.

Are you house hunting and want a home with a view? Check out my website, or let me know what you want - I'll watch the market and screen in those view properties for you and send regular emails.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

For First Time Buyers

If you are currently looking for a home and either do not have enough money for a downpayment and closing costs, or perhaps don’t want to liquidate financial assets to use as a downpayment, there are loan programs here in California through CalHFA that may be available to you that can get you into a home for little or no money down. If you are buying a home for the first time, or have been a home owner in the past and have been renting for the last 3 years, it is possible to buy a home with no money out of your pocket. The programs that are available can help YOU realize your dream of homeownership with 0% down loans, as well programs to provide downpayment and/or the closing cost assistance.

First, in order to receive approved credit you will need to have a strong credit history, a stable employment history, limited liabilities, and the financial ability to make the monthly payments.

Second, it is important to note that you can purchase different types of homes with these programs, including detached and attached single family homes, and condominiums. Pricing in some communities may limit purchases to condos or attached homes and twinhomes, and not all communities will have housing that fit the financial parameters of these programs.

If you qualify, a % down will alow you to purchase a home without a downpayment. The downpayment and closing cost assistance programs can provide you with a second or third loan to a maximum of around 3% of the purchase price (there are price guidelines for low and moderate income individuals and families) that is used to cover the cost of a downpayment and/or your closing costs. While these loans charge interest, you do not make payments on these particular secondary loans until you sell the house.

Call my TOLL FREE INFOLINE at 800-364-5719 and enter ID# 5032 to learn more about these programs. To obtain your FREE report, please PRESS 2 to leave a message with a valid email address and the report will be sent to you promptly. Or, if you prefer, you may leave a mailing address and the report will be mailed to you by the next day. Please make sure you spell any uncommon names and addresses, and speak slowly and clearly. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to buy a new home in the San Diego market.

And check out another blog of mine dedicated to First Time Home Buyers!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Housing in coastal San Diego County

I thought I would share my observations on the housing in coastal San Diego (North County) where I live, especially as it compares to my former home in Boston. I'm not going to chat about the pricing - we all know it's high, and that's a topic for later discussion. As I started writing I realized that there are lots of observations, so rather than be too tedious, here is Part 1.

1. Housing in general - Well, there's lots of it, with San Diego being one of the 10 largest cities in the country. There is much diversity in styles of housing - condos, multiunit properties, rental apartments, time shares (Aviara Four Seasons in Carlsbad, at the high end), fractional ownership condos (e.g., at La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, for example), 55+ communities, mobile and manufactured homes, high rise apartments and condos (plenty of new ones and under-construction downtown in the Petco Park and Gaslamp Quarter areas, for example), beach bungalows, attached and detached homes, twin homes, Spanish, Tuscan, Mediterranean, California Ranch, Cape Cod, Italianate, Old World, contemporary, Craftsman, tract homes, mansions, estates, homes with guest houses...the list goes on and on.

2. Age - seems that the preponderance of the housing has been built since the 60s, and in some areas most is post-1980 (with a large number of new subdivisions springing up since 2000, such as Encinitas Ranch, La Costa Greens/Ridge/Oaks, and a zillion more, and that's just near the coast). Sure there are homes built in the 20s, but that is more the exception. When people say they have an old house it refers more to the 1970s and 1980s. Back in Boston and Cambridge much of the housing was built between 1880 and 1920, and an "old" house there means early 1800s or before.

3. Basements - well, they are kinda hard to find here except in older homes. Everyone here sits on a slab!! So where are you supposed to store all that junk?? Sure, due to some zoning restrictions in some areas we are seeing homes remodeled or built with basements added to increase overall space but keep the above-ground size within the limits set by the town for the lot size (e.g., Del Mar). Now in Boston most everyone has a basement or access to one - if you live in a condo building there is one for all to share, to do laundry, store stuff, etc. Yep, some have dirt floors, and low ceilings, and cracked or sagging beams, and they get wet and have mold and asbestos, but you have a basement!! You don't get that with a slab - just cracks and sagging and unevenness. What fun is that?

4. Lead paint - not much to say here. It is a HUGE deal in New England since most housing was built pre-1978 when lead paint was outlawed. Everyone knows they have it, although some de-lead (by choice or requirement if they are landlords). Not much of a problem here due to age of housing. It's still a disclosure, however.

5. "Laundry in the garage" - that was a new surprise. Who wants to go to the garage to do laundry? Well, it's not such a big deal, given the temperatures here. It can be a great use of space instead of in the house, among other factors, but it took some getting used to the idea (we have a laundry room, by the way, which appeals to me). Now, in Boston it is a big deal, and more expensive, if you have an in-unit washer and dryer if you are a condo owner. Many people living in condos trudge down to the basement and SHARE, heaven forbid, a washer and dryer, or maybe several in a large building...and lots are coin-operated, just like in college. It can be a treat to live on the upper floor of a 3-story building, or worse, and have to cart everything down to the basement and do your laundry with the dampness, mold and asbestos. And there are still many people, both in condos and homes, that have to trek their laundry baskets to the Laundromat, just like in college. And some people, who don't have interior access to their beloved basements, but must get to them from outdoors through a "bulkhead," have the added pleasure of taking their laundry out in the freezing cold, snow and rain. Doing laundry in the garage sounds like a good deal to me.

That's it for now. Stay tuned for Part 2.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Few Pros and Cons about Living along the Coast

Potential buyers might be inerested in some od the advantages and disadvantages of coastal living. For those of us living here and familiar with the area, none of this will be a surprise. But if you are moving into the area from out of town, there are things that are helpful to know as you consider where you want to live and the pros and cons of living there.

First, as in many areas of California, the freeways play an important role in allowing people to travel significant distances without stopping (unless of course you have an accident or the highway patrol is engaged in one of their pursuits), primarily in a northerly direction. Interestingly it is more complicated to go east and west directly. Everyone is aware of the huge traffic issues we face daily, with the expectation of more to come, so seeing the freeway (the 5 in our area) as an advantage, particularly when you are stuck in rush hour traffic, is tough. The freeway has a major presence through the coastal communities from Oceanside to downtown, and with that comes noise. The interesting thing about the freeway noise is that it can vary dramatically depending on the direction and intensity of the wind, the time of year (e.g., cooler, dry air), whether you are on a hill adjacent to the freeway, or east vs. west of it, among other factors. And, of course, whether you are west of the 5 or not plays a role in real estate marketing, and impacts the value, price and desirability of individual properties, in general. So, if noise is an issue for you, be sure to investigate thoroughly the areas you like relative to the freeway noise. And consider the tradeoff of having easy access with the increased possibility of noise. For many, having ocean views more than makes up for the fact that you are overlooking, and listening to, the freeway.

The weather also impacts those of us living along the coast in different ways. I touched on this a bit previously, so there is not a lot to add to that. Keep in mind that you will have more of a marine layer and coastal fog nearer to the coast, and the temperatures will be lower than further inland, in general. Depending on your preferences, this may or may not be an issue. Quite frankly, I like that it rarely gets above the low 80s (the exception being the heat wave and humidity we all experienced earlier this summer) and generally is in the high 70s at best. But we sometimes have less sunny weather than further inland. On some days, however, it is clear near the coast but one can see lots of clouds over the inland areas. You can't change any of this, of course, but I suggest doing your homework and getting a good sense of the climate that suits you best when searching for a home.

Value, and price, of course, are huge issues impacting the coastal areas, since so many people want to live there. The closer you are to the water (and having views) the greater the price tag, and waterfront property comes at a huge premium, while you get more for your money further inland. Value varies with the particular community (as you head south from the North County border the median price goes up by community) and within community due to location, schools, views, newness of construction, home and lot size, and the particulars and desirability of the individual subdivisions (and what about all the subdivision names...that is a rarity back in the Boston area, as are gated communities - a new experience here in California). Consider all these factors as you search for the right neighborhood and home.

Congestion and traffic...what more can we say, except that it is a huge problem, is not getting better, and what you trade off for living near the beaches, the freeway and numerous amenities in the coastal towns is having more people, cars and general congestion around you. As the migration to southern California continues, with the popularity of the lifestyle and weather, these issues will only get worse, and towns are struggling with how to manage their development (some are better at this than others, e.g., planned communities in Carlsbad, restrictions on home size vs. lot size in communities like Del Mar and Solana Beach, the impact of the coastal commissions, etc.). Again, just something to consider as you think about where you would like to live.

Having a knowledgeable Realtor to assist you in examining these issues as they impact your home search is critical. But ultimately YOU have to weigh all the issues and determine what best suits your needs. There are always tradeoffs, you just need to decide what you want and what you are willing, or need, to give up. And I speak from some experience, having made the move from city living in the Boston area to Carlsbad. Good luck with your search, and let me know if I can help in any way.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Arts in Carlsbad, CA

As the summer draws to close, it reminded me that one of the things I really like about living in Carlsbad, and what attracted me to buy here, in addition to finding a large house and more land for comparable money as compared to other beachside communties, are the arts offerings. At least in my experience they are pretty impressive for a town this size.

First, during the summer there are FREE Friday night concerts in one of the many parks. These are referred to as TGIF Jazz in the Parks, and offer blues, jazz and latin music every Friday night, alternating between 3 parks. This is a great family venue, as people (as many as several thousand) bring simple to elaborate dinners and wine, and lounge in the park for a couple of hours listening to great music. The bands change regularly and generally are top notch. Parking is free in the immediate area and there is shuttle service from nearby schools. This has been a part of the town for 20 years, which is pretty impressive.

Another terrific arts offering is the Cannon Art Gallery, near Alga Road and El Camino. Free to the public, and sponsored in part by Friends of the Arts, the gallery offers 6 - 7 shows during the year exploring a broad range of art styles, sometimes a show of different artists and other times a traveling collection such as the recent show featuring art objects from Africa. Associated with each show is an Opening Night Reception and a Family Open Studio on Saturday, a hands-on art-making event.

Among other offerings: Art Splash, a festival being held this year on September 23rd and 24th on Armada Drive near the Flower Fields; the Plein Air Brunch (a fund raiser for the gallery); and a Summer Art Camp for children. For more info about art in Carlsbad, visit the Carlsbad website.

But Carlsbad is not the only town with an active arts program. I haven't yet discovered them all but as an example Leucadia, part of Encinitas, has an open studios art walk during the summer, and many towns seem to have art festivals of one sort or another. Any favorites?? Please let us know about them.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Weather and Schools in San Diego

As we head into the last holiday weekend of the summer, it occurred to me that one of the things I continue to enjoy out here is the weather. Yes, I know that is true for probably most people here, but for someone from a city like Boston with the unpredictablility of the weather, the consistency here is a vast improvement. The holiday brings to mind something we heard from one of our neighbors when we moved here, and that is that you can plan your holiday (or weekend) barbecues and other events without fear that it will be rained out or the weather will turn too cold to be outside. This is not the case in Boston, and in fact more times than not at least one of the summer holidays would be ruined by a weekend coldfront and/or monsoon. We hosted, or attended, many events on the 4th or Labor Day which ended up indoors due to the inconsistent weather (and, mind you, it was not always predicted accurately by the meteorologists - nuff said about that!!).

This holiday also, in the past, signified the real end of summer for kids, since most everyone used to start back the day after Labor Day, or shortly thereafter. That, of course, has changed and most schools are now already in full swing (and in some cases have been for a couple of weeks) by the time Labor Day arrives. It does seem that out here there is even a broader range of start dates for schools than back in the Boston area.

Since we are talking about schools, another big difference I have noticed is that the school district may cut across town lines in many areas (for example, some of the kids in Carlsbad go to San Marcos schools and others do not), and the boundaries of the districts (and the schools your child will go to based on your address) change more frequently. These changes seem to be due to all the new housing development, and new schools being built, among other reasons. I always recommend to buyers that they check with the local school district to confirm where their kids will be going, especially if this is a big issue, which it generally is for buyers. And as we all know the popularity and reputations of the schools tie into the supply and demand issues of housing and the relative values among different school districts. The better the schools, the higher the prices in general.

Here are a few links to area public school districts:
Carlsbad Unified School District
San Dieguito Union High School District
Rancho Santa Fe School District
Oceanside Unified School District
Del Mar Union School District
Solana Beach School District
San Marcos Unified School District

Hope you have a great holiday weekend!


Jeff Dowler (RE/MAX Associates): Real Estate Agent in Carlsbad, San Diego County, California on